Dir: Mike Newell. US-UK. 2005. 150mins.
A solid but mostly uninspired melding of theadventure and fright that have been the benchmarks of the franchise,
As Potter's life at Hogwartshas grown darker with each new year, so the adaptations of JK Rowling'smoney-making colossus have consequently suffered a slight dip in box officemagic (although even the lowest grossing feature, last year's
The new feature is unlikelyto enjoy the same strong reviews as its predecessor, but will benefit from avoracious and large fan base - despite the darker tone and higher certificateratings in several territories, including the US (PG-13) and UK (12A).
It should also be helped byreturning to the same November slot taken by the first two features (
In the US (Nov 18)
Overseas- which in the past hasaccounted for more than two-thirds of the previous Potters' worldwide box-office - it opens within the month,including Germany (Nov 16), Mexico (Nov 18), Spain, Italy and Brazil (all Nov25), Japan (Nov 26), France (Nov 30) and Australia (Dec 1).
The new feature picks upHarry (Daniel Radcliffe) as he heads into his fourth year at the School ofWitchcraft And Wizardry - and is haunted by a nightmare of Lord Voldemort(Ralph Fiennes) plotting his destruction.
Meanwhile, he and palsHermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) learn they will be hosting thefabled Triwizard Tournament, a competition involving dangerous tasks to beundertaken by a representative of Hogwarts and two other wizard schools: thealoof boys of Durmstrang Institute and the seductive lasses of BeauxbatonsAcademy.
The under-age Harry isineligible to enter his name into the magical Goblet Of Fire, which will chooseeach school's participant. But after the three contestants are selected, the vesselproduces an unexpected fourth entrant - Harry Potter. Although the boy's lifewill be at risk, the goblet has spoken, and so he must compete, partly todetermine why he was chosen without ever entering his name.
Looking to consistentlyreinvigorate the series, Warner Bros selected director Mike Newell to handlethe new feature. A film-maker best known for sophisticated romantic comediesand dramas (like Four Weddings And AFuneral and Donnie Brasco), he hereutilises some of the same moodiness he employed in Donnie Brasco for this excursion into the land of character-drivenfantasy.
After the slithering menaceof The Prisoner Of Azkaban, Newellattempts to straddle the line between GobletOf Fire's darker elements and its coming-of-age comedy. But while, as theseries' first UK director, he feels more confident than his predecessors withHogwarts' British humour, he is not wholly successful at juggling the book'smyriad new characters, subplots, and tonal changes.
It does not help that thefourth novel is one-and-a-half times longer than any of the preceding books,and character motivations have been seemingly down-sized by screenwriter StevenKloves to keep the central series-of-challenges narrative humming. TheTriwizard Tournament's tasks - defeat a dragon, rescue a classmate from thebottom of a lake - also feel like little more than perfunctory (thoughimpressively mounted) big-budget set pieces.
What gets lost is the impactof two new additions to Hogwarts - Professor Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody (BrendanGleeson) and tabloid journalist Rita Skeeter (Miranda Richardson) - and theintroduction of a third character whose fate is a crucial component to thethird act. (Additionally, Radcliffe's performance lacks the nuance and pathosthe young actor demonstrated in ThePrisoner Of Azkaban.)
Unfortunately for a filmthat runs longer than two-and-a-half hours, it's a bit of a slog to Goblet'sstrongest material, which resides in the last 45 minutes or so, when themystery of Potter's inclusion in the tournament becomes clear and Lord Voldemortmakes his dramatic entrance.
Once he finally does arrive,Fiennes is tremendous as the evil You-Know-Who, rendering a monstrous figureappropriately larger than life without ever winking at the camera.
Only here at the end doesNewell summon the wonder and dread that Cuaron conjured effortlessly in
Steve Kloves, from the book by JK Rowling
Roger Lloyd Pack
Frances de la Tour